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Fish Head Curry Recipe

Fish Head Curry Recipe

Fish Head Curry Recipe

A cook who came to Singapore from the southwestern Indian state of Kerala, where this dish is unheard of, created Fish Head Curry back in the 1950s. Its popularity spread quickly and now there are dozens of different versions of this dish.

Ingredients : 

  • 1 large fresh fish head (red snapper, threadfin or sea bream), about 1-11/4 kg (2-21/2 lbs), halved lengthwise and rinsed
  • 2 heaped tablespoons tamarind pulp mashed with 1/2 cup (125 ml) warm water, squeezed and strained for juice
  • 10 small okra (about 150 g/ 5 oz total), stalks discarded
  • 1 slender Asian eggplant (about 200 g/7 oz), cut into 6 pieces
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Curry Sauce

  • 2 stalks lemongrass, thick bottom third only, outer layers removed, inner part sliced
  • 21/2 cm (1 in) fresh turmeric root, peeled and sliced, or 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 5 cm (2 in) fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 10 red finger-length chillies, deseeded and sliced
  • 20 shallots, peeled
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 sprig curry leaves, rinsed
  • 5 tablespoons fish curry powder or plain curry powder
  • 2 cups (500 ml) water
  • 2 cups (500 ml) thick coconut milk or 1 cup (250 ml) coconut cream mixed with 1 cup (250 ml) water
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Method :

  1. To prepare the Curry Sauce, grind the lemongrass, turmeric, ginger, chillies, shallots and garlic in a mortar or blender until fine, adding a little oil if necessary to keep the blades turning.
  2. Heat the oil in a wok over medium high heat and stir-fry the mustard seeds until they pop, about 1 minute. Add the ground ingredients, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves, and stir-fry until fragrant, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the curry powder and cook for another 2 minutes. Add 1 cup (250 ml) of the water and simmer for 2 minutes. Then add the remaining water, coconut milk and the fish head, season with the salt and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the tamarind juice to the wok and continue to simmer, uncovered, until the fish is almost cooked, about 10 minutes. Add the okra and eggplant, and simmer until cooked, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes and season with the salt and sugar. Serve hot with freshly cooked white rice.

Note : If you’ve never eaten a fish head before, you might be a little cautious about trying it. Be assured that it adds a special sweetness and texture to the curry. The flesh, especially from the cheek pockets, is soft and delicious.

Serves 4-6
Preparation time : 25 mins
Cooking time : 30 mins


Source :
the food of Singapore
Simple Street Food Recipes from the Lion City
by David Wong & Djoko Wibisono
photos by Luca Invernizzi Tettoni
introduction by Lee Geok Boi


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